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PURE OIL COMPANY v. STATE MINNESOTA

December 9, 1918

PURE OIL COMPANY
v.
STATE OF MINNESOTA



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Clarke

[ 248 U.S. Page 159]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the court.

In this case the State of Minnesota sued the plaintiff in error, an extensive dealer in oils, to recover fees, which were charged for the inspection of oils and gasoline, between February 1, 1913, and April 25, 1915. The judgment of the State Supreme Court affirming that of the trial court in favor of the State is before us for review on writ of error.

[ 248 U.S. Page 160]

     The inspection involved was provided for by chapter 502 of the General Laws of the State of Minnesota for the year 1909, the title of which is: "An Act relating to the inspection of petroleum products, the appointment of chief inspector of oils and deputy inspectors, manner of inspection, establishing fees for inspection and salaries of inspectors, prohibiting the sale of adulterated oils, and providing penalties for the violation thereof," and the title of the chapter in which the original act is embodied in the General Statutes of the State is: "Inspector of Oils." Gen. Stats. of Minnesota, 1913, c. 20.

Section 3622 provides that no person shall sell or offer for sale in the State illuminating oil which has not been inspected as provided for by the act, or which will ignite at a temperature below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. A method is prescribed for making this "fire test," and for determining the gravity of such oils and the results must be stenciled on each container of oil.

Section 3625 deals with gasoline, and requires that it shall be subject to the same inspection and control as is prescribed for illuminating oils "except that the inspectors are not required to test it other than to ascertain its gravity."

All containers of gasoline must be labeled conspicuously with the word "Gasoline," the gravity must be stenciled thereon and it is made unlawful to sell or offer it for sale until inspected and approved. Provision is also made (§ 3626) for the inspection of gasoline "receptacles" to keep them "free from water and all other foreign substances," and the sale of "adulterated" gasoline is prohibited (§ 3627). Obviously this is, in form, a not unusual type of inspection law.

The findings of fact by the trial court include the following:

During the period under discussion the State inspected 9,914 barrels of oil and 81,998 barrels of gasoline owned

[ 248 U.S. Page 161]

     by the plaintiff in error, all of which were brought into Minnesota from other States by common carriers in tank cars, which were held at the place of business of the plaintiff in error until inspected, and all were unloaded from the cars in which they ...


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